Students at Hazelwood Integrated College used a visit by Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to air their views on a variety of important issues affecting young people.
Mr Miliband was quizzed about university tuition fees, social media, youth unemployment and other topics in a Q & A session with a group of sixth form students during his visit to the Whitewell Road school on Thursday, January 22.
The Doncaster North MP, who was in Northern Ireland for a two-day visit ahead of May’s general election, was welcomed to the college by principal Kathleen O’Hare, chair of the Board of Governors Trevor Parkhill and Baroness May Blood, campaign chair of the Integrated Education Fund.
Mr Miliband met Year 14 students in the school’s science department, discussing their work as part of their Chemistry and Applied Science courses, before being joined by Shadow Secretary of State Ivan Lewis and North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds for the question and answer session with the college’s A Level media studies students.
Discussing the growing importance of social media, Mr Miliband highlighted the potential perils of various websites and applications and encouraged the young people to “engage your brain before you engage your keyboard”.
Another key issue raised during the Q & A was the importance of getting more young people involved in politics - something which resonated with Science, Business and Health & Social Care student Sophie Henry.
Agreeing with Mr Miliband’s suggestion that 16 and 17-year-olds should be allowed to vote, she said: “Our future is what it’s all about, not that generation. It’s our generation and our people that need to have their say about what’s going on.”
For Chemistry, History and ICT student Jack White, the key issue facing Northern Ireland is integrated education.
“Integrated education has a big part to play in how Northern Ireland is advancing and I feel that if we really focus on integrated education that’s the way forward, and I think that will improve how Northern Ireland goes forward,” he commented.
College principal Kathleen O’Hare expressed her pride at the way her students conducted themselves during the question and answer session.
“I was really impressed with their ability to grapple with not just Northern Ireland political issues but with wider UK political issues as well,” she said.
• See more coverage in this week’s Times (on sale January 28)